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I grew up in Costa Rica, so I can understand Spanish just fine. And yet, there is something I never quite got about the language. Here is an example of such thing in action:

enter image description here

Si abandonás este espacio, recogé tus pertenencias.

If you leave this area, take your belongings with you.


... It's the accents. As far as I am concerned, the use of accents in this and many other signs is completely unnecessary. The message could have been very well

Si abandonas este espacio, recoge tus pertenencias.

The verbs abandonas and recoge don't have accents. They don't need accents.

Ever since I was a child I simply assumed that this was a style used for announcements/commercials/signs: a technique used for messages that are meant for the masses simply because they sound more appealing (for some reason).

So far, such assumption has worked for me: almost every time I see some sort of banner or announcement, they put accents on their verbs. Curiously, I have a feeling that government-issued messages don't use this, so I'm guessing that it is not even a formal thing.

  • Yep, that's called castellano rioplatense. – TeachingTom Jul 28 '15 at 18:23
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    The OP mentions that it is in Costa Rican Spanish, and Costa Rica, like much of Central America, is voseante. In CR specifically, the forms used are identical to those in Rioplatense Spanish, except that the preterite does not end in -s (vos cantaste - CR; vos cantastes - Rioplantense). – user0721090601 Jul 29 '15 at 12:30
  • "Standard" Rioplatense does not end in -s. Some people use it but it's considered a very distinctive upper-middle-class hypercorrection. – pablodf76 Jul 3 '17 at 20:45
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Those tittles are there to mark the Argentinian (and around) pronunciation, where 2nd person singular is actually pronounced like that. You can even check here: http://lema.rae.es/drae2001/srv/search?id=OwNFUpkBeVcRjf05c4tK

I guess "official" banners follow the standard Spanish (i.e. everywhere except for Argentina) pronunciation.

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  • Not only argentinan. Voseo is used is several other regions, for instance my region in the Colombian coffee zone. – DGaleano Jul 4 '17 at 13:18
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Note that in English, the word tittle refers to the dot above an i or j.

The accents are there because the verb isn't conjugated for (or usted), rather vos. While most people think of Argentina and Uruguay as the main places to hear it, it's actually used pretty extensively across Latin America, but it it's not considered generally part of the prestige register. Its conjugations vary a bit depending on country, though the most common (=Argentinean) imperative forms are -á (-ar), -é (-er), and -í (-ir) with no irregulars except for ir which is defective and replaced with andá (from andar)

I actually find any sign with conjugated verbs to feel less formal. Personally, I would've written the sign "Recoger sus pertenencias al abandonar el espacio" (and that's what I'd expect for a government sign, because omitting the conjugation makes it a bit more neutral in whom it's directed to).

Especially, though, if a sign is conjugated in 2nd person informal, it's just designed to be a bit friendlier of a reminder (the infinitive version would sound a bit more demanding/harsh, IMO).

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  • This is a tilde (not a tiddle) Ññ .. and ãõ – dockeryZ Jul 27 '15 at 1:51
  • An acute accent is what you described. – dockeryZ Jul 27 '15 at 1:52
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    @dockeryz in English, a tilde is what's seen on ñ, a tittle is what's seen on i or j, but it's not a common word. – user0721090601 Jul 27 '15 at 19:36
  • Hmmm.. I see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tittle Never heard of it. Learn something every day. – dockeryZ Jul 28 '15 at 1:46
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    @verbote the use of the infinitive on signage is a well established practice that predates English influence on the language and used in other Romance languages — French, Italian, and Portuguese, to name the ones I'm familiar with. As an example, what is more common, "No fumar" or "No fumen"? Of course the former. Perhaps it feels less formal to you, but it's not an Anglicism by any stretch of the imagination. Also, the sign appears to be Costa Rican. – user0721090601 Jul 29 '15 at 12:47
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The verb forms in the sign reflect the actual pronunciation of verbs using the voseo forms, as found most characteristically in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, but also in many other places in Latin America. In some regions voseo is considered too informal, but it's the standard in Argentina in most kinds of communication, except the most formal ones. Check out, for example, the homepage of the Argentine national government (or archived in case the link goes dead). For really formal second-person interactions, government and private companies will generally use usted.

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